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Loanwords with the prefix be- in Modern Icelandic: An example of halted borrowing
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Scandinavian Languages.
2015 (English)In: Ord og tunga, ISSN 1022-4610, Vol. 17, 1-26 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Words with the German prefix be- entered Icelandic in the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, mostly from Danish. Nearly 300 words are listed in the Icelandic University Dictionary in Reykjavík. Almost no such words are, however, usable in Icelandic of today. The disappearance of these words from the language can, with some reservation, be seen as an example of a halted borrowing process. The number of new words belonging to this group, that entered Icelandic, fell drastically in the nineteenth century. Words first attested in twentieth century texts are almost all from historical novels and sailor language, and a few words are native Icelandic neologisms, which suggests that even if the prefix never acquired the role of a model for domestic word forma­tion in Icelandic, it may have had some possibilities to take on such a role. Words of this type have been criticized by Icelandic language purists and it has been held for a fact that they were rather frequent in the language in previous centuries. An investigation of a corpus of 1,640 nineteenth century private letters does, however, not suggest that such words were common in the language of lay-people of that century, and neither does a brief comparison with another corpus of nearly 4.5 million pages from 810 magazines and periodicals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Reykjavik: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum , 2015. Vol. 17, 1-26 p.
Keyword [en]
loanwords, Icelandic, prefix, halted borrowing, private letters
Keyword [sv]
lånord, isländska, främmande påverkan, prefix, privatbrev
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Linguistics; Scandinavian Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-251392OAI: diva2:805973
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2015-05-08Bibliographically approved

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